'Boski Ke Kaptan Chacha' is one of the many stories that lyricist and wordsmith Gulzar wrote for his daughter Meghna - whom he lovingly calls Boski – when she was growing up. In the 75th year of India’s Independence, he is collaborating with director Salim Arif to stage the play with children from marginalized backgrounds. The play will be staged on May 15 at NCPA.
“We want to remind people of the importance of the National Flag. The idea of working with children from the Dhai Akshar Educational Trust is to create a level-playing field for them to feel empowered enough to do whatever they want to do,” says Arif.
In a conversation with Moneycontrol, Gulzar spoke about the origins of the play, and his story in The Book of Dog, among other things. Edited excerpts:
How did this play come about?
This is from a book which came out years ago. I used to write a book for Boski and present it to her on her birthday every year when she was growing up. I have written stories on India, on other places and also Panchatantra stories in verse. This particular story was about the National Flag. It is set in a chawl where a retired captain, who had got injured in a war, resides and imparts knowledge to children about various things, including national unity. With January 26 drawing close, he gathers them and tells them about the significance of the three colours in the flag and tells them about the Ashoka Chakra in the middle.
Has this play been performed earlier?
Yes, during the time I made Koshish, I had met children from Arushi NGO in Bhopal that works with people with disabilities. We did the play with the disabled children from the NGO and it was directed by Salim saab.
Salim Arif and you have been working together for many years now…
That’s right. Salim saab has been directing plays on my short stories as well my children’s plays. It’s a mutual association of respect. He used to work with me in films. I work with him in theatre, and Lubna Salim has always been our producer. She has the right to choose the subject and she chose this subject for the 75th year of our Independence... I have seen that even most grown-ups don’t know how many spokes there are in the Ashoka Chakra. In this play, we have tried to say some things with humour and make children aware of our National Flag.
Is writing for children very different from writing for adults?
Yes, the way the expression of intellect comes from a child and the way it comes from a grown-up is different. The grown-up has learnt from the language of books. The child has only to say it with his or her instinct. They have to grow into certain words and language.
Recently, you also wrote a story and a poem about your dog Pali in 'The Book of Dog'. Can you tell us about that?I have written many poems about my dog. Pali’s sculpture still sits in my office. That’s how he is still alive with me. He lived all 14 years. He was named after Pali Hill, where he lives. Pali is the name of the hero of my film Maachis. He would have tea with me in the mornings and he and I would be served the same biscuits. If the same biscuits were not served to him, he would know and make his displeasure known. I have a lot of interesting conversations with Pali.